The NBL season rolls ahead, with the eight-strong Round 6 schedule doubling as the first batch of NBL Cup games – four Melbourne-hosted double-headers across four days.
History: Played 44: Taipans 22 V Hawks 22
Last meeting: January 28, 2021: Hawks 90 d Taipans 70 at Cairns Pop-Up Arena
Final Thoughts: Cairns Taipans have won just two of their eight games so far, but they are coming off a handsome 84-69 win over the Breakers (after losing to the Kiwi outfit two days earlier). Last week’s scheduled clash with United was scuppered by the COVID-19 flare-up.
The 5-2 Illawarra Hawks halted a two-game slide with an 85-82 away victory over the Kings. Tyler Harvey hit four three-pointers among his game-high 25 points.
The Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 against the Taipans – including a pair of crushing defeats in Cairns already this season. The underdog Hawks romped to 94-76 and 90-70 wins in January. That’s more than enough to be confident in taking Illawarra against a modest line.
History: Played 49: Wildcats 32 V United 17
Last meeting: February 7, 2021: United 75 d Wildcats 71 at Melbourne Arena
Final Thoughts: Melbourne United begin their NBL Cup homestand with a 6-0 record. Last week’s assignment was kyboshed by COVID, but they rolled the in-form Hawks 91-88 in Wollongong in their most recent match on February 10.
The 2-3 Perth Wildcats had a pair of games against SEM Phoenix at Melbourne Arena last week. They won the first in a canter, 106-75, but were humbled 96-71 in the second.
United have won their last three against the Wildcats, including a 75-71 home victory earlier this month – the Wildcats’ only fixture so far that wasn’t against the Phoenix. New Boomers selection Jock Landale (16 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast) was a handful for Perth at both ends, while Bryce Cotton’s (24 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) efforts were in vain.
It’s hard to get a gauge on the Wildcats given they’ve played an NBL-low five games, with four of them against one team. But United are living up to their title-favourite billing and look the goods to maintain their perfect 2021 record.
History: Played 3: Phoenix 2 V Bullets 1
Last meeting: January 23, 2021: Bullets 108 d Phoenix 101 at Nissan Arena
Final Thoughts: South East Melbourne Phoenix have been stuck in a win-loss pattern since the start of the season, consequently sporting a 4-4 record after eight outings. They split their two games against the Wildcats at home, bouncing back from a heavy 106-75 loss in the initial encounter with a convincing 96-71 victory that saw Keifer Sykes (24 pts, 6 ast) put in a superb display on offence.
The 3-4 Brisbane Bullets arrested a two-game slide – consisting of 13-plus losses to Melbourne and Adelaide – with a powerful 93-74 win over the 36ers. Vic Law (27 pts, 9 reb) continued his fine form for the Queenslanders.
The Phoenix won two of their three debut-season matches against the Bullets by 15-plus margins. The sole encounter in Melbourne finished up 113-93 in the newcomers’ favour.
SEM are the warm $1.55 favourites, but it’s hard to put too much faith in either team’s form. But with only two of each side’s games producing more than 179 points this season, the total line looks a little high and the under could be a sharp bet.
History: Played 41: 36ers 23 V Kings 18
Last meeting: February 6, 2021: Kings 94 d 36ers 75 at Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Final Thoughts: The 3-4 Sydney Kings had a mixed time of it in Round 5, following up a handy 84-74 win over the Breakers with an 85-82 loss to the Hawks. But captain Casper Ware is doing his best to lead last season’s table-toppers, averaging 20 points per game.
Adelaide 36ers boast a 5-4 record but have lost two of their last three. They split their two games against the Bullets last week, winning the first 85-70 – with Isaac Humphries (24 pts, 13 reb) on fire – but crashing 93-74 in the latter despite a strong showing from Daniel Johnson (20 pts, 8 reb).
The teams have already met twice this season in Adelaide. The Sixers took the spoils 85-80 in late-January, but the Kings hit back with a 95-74 win a week later.
Despite the Kings’ losing record, they have been the more consistent of these sides so far. All four of their last were by five points or less. Three of the Sixers’ losses were by 19 points or more.
History: Played 43: Breakers 26 V Hawks 17
Last meeting: December 22, 2019: Breakers 91 d Hawks 89 at WIN Entertainment Centre
Final Thoughts: The 1-4 NZ Breakers get their NBL Cup campaign underway against an Illawarra Hawks side who are on a 48-hour turnaround.
The Breakers lost their sole Round 5 assignment 84-74 to the Kings. The return to form of Corey Webster (25 pts), who missed the Breakers’ first couple of games, was a positive.
The Hawks were upset by the Taipans 101-95 on Saturday, despite strong showings from Tyler Harvey (24 pts, 5 reb, 6 ast) and Sam Froling (12 pts, 12 reb).
The Breakers have won eight of their last 10 against the Hawks, including the last fivestraight. The Auckland outfit chalked up a pair of home wins over Illawarra last season – 103-72 and 91-79 – and a tight 91-89 victory over the wooden spooners in Wollongong.
There are a couple of signs fast-starting Illawarra are coming back to the pack, but they should overcome the battling Breakers.
History: Played 45: United 26 V Taipans 19
Last meeting: January 25, 2021: United 87 d Taipans 85 at Cairns Pop-Up Arena
Final Thoughts: One of the defacto home teams for the NBL, Melbourne United suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday – an 89-85 defeat to Perth Wildcats. Young sensation Jock Landale (20 pts, 10 reb, 4 ast) was superb in a tight affair.
Cairns Taipans chalked up a momentous 101-95 win over bogey team Illawarra Hawks on Saturday. Captain Scott Machado (31 pts, 8 reb, 7 ast) produced one of the finest individual displays of the NBL season as the Taipans overturned a three-quarter time deficit.
Melbourne grabbed an 87-85 win in Cairns when the teams met last month. Landale (19 pts, 7 reb) proved hard for the Taipans to handle, while Cameron Oliver (17 pts, 13 reb) was a standout in a beaten team.
The weekend’s results notwithstanding, United have been easily the more reliable of these teams so far this season.
History: March 15, 2020: Wildcats 111 d Kings 96 at Qudos Bank Arena
Last meeting: January 29, 2021: Phoenix 90 d Wildcats 89 at RAC Arena
Final Thoughts: Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats square off the first time since last year’s Grand Final series. The Wildcats were up 2-1 in the best-of-five rubber when COVID-19 intervened; the rest of the series was abandoned and Perth were controversially declared champions.
The Kings have turned things around after a shaky 1-3 start to the season. In their past four games they have beaten the 36ers twice and the Breakers – each by double-digit margins – and recorded a narrow loss to the Hawks. The Kings pumped the 36ers 94-77 on Friday night, with backcourt duo Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic combining for 45 points.
The 3-3 Wildcats have also endured a patchy campaign to date, but they rolled Melbourne United 89-85 on Saturday in their most encouraging performance so far. Reigning MVP Bryce Cotton (29 pts, 7 ast) was typically influential.
The Wildcats have won five of their last six against the Kings. But we’ve seen a bit more promise from the Kings over the past couple of weeks, while the extra day’s rest could also be an important factor.
History: Played 6: 36ers 4 V Phoenix 2
Last meeting: January 20, 2021: Phoenix 89 d 36ers 83 at Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Final Thoughts: The 5-5 Adelaide 36ers are searching for a momentum shift after losing three of their last four games by 17 points or more. They were on the wrong end of a 94-77 scoreline against the Kings on Friday night, made to pay for a dismal third quarter in which they scored just eight points.
The 5-4 SEM Phoenix are trending in the opposite direction, winning three of their last four by 16-plus. Mitch Creek (29 pts, 9 reb) and triple-double hero Kiefer Sykes (14 pts, 10 reb, 10 ast) spearheaded a 99-83 victory over the Bullets on Friday.
The 36ers won three of their four encounters with SEM last season. The teams squared off twice in Adelaide in four days last month; the Sixers took the first clash 116-108 but the Phoenix bounced back 89-83 in the second game.
The Phoenix bring some very handy momentum in this encounter and shape as the best bet as the first NBL Cup round comes to a close.